This New York Hipster Hotel Fines You $500 For Bad Yelp Reviews, And Yelpers Are Pissed [Update]

"There will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site."

If you enjoy the flea market trappings of exposed brick walls, leather-bound books, and quirky vintage furniture, you may enjoy a night's stay at Union Street Guest House, a hotel tucked near the Catskills in Hudson, New York. Its vibes resemble a Portlandia sketch.

Union Street Guest House, however, has an interesting policy for dealing with some of its negative reviews from guests: a $500 fine, for anyone who has booked a wedding or event there, PageSix reports.

"Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines," writes the hotel on its events page. "If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here." However (emphasis added, sic throughout):

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500. fine for each negative review.

The fee will be refunded if--only if--the negative review is taken down. But that hasn't stopped a small militia of aggrieved Yelpers from taking to USGH's page to voice their displeasure with the business's policies.

"Horrible policies created by a Gestapo like management trying to intimidate customers into leaving good reviews," writes one Yelper from Clarksville, Tennessee. "This place should be relocated to china [sic]," notes another from Temple, Pennsylvania. "They have a policy about reviews that is unamerican [sic]. Go someplace else."

This dude is even offering USGH free, unsolicited advice, because #branding:



Fast Company tried calling the hotel at the number listed with a few questions and got a busy signal every time. We reached out via email and will update this post if we hear back.

Yelp, to its credit, has been proactive about aggressively screening fake reviews and trolls, so it's unlikely that many of these will stay up for very long. But an online review can have tangible, long-lasting effects on a local business: One Harvard Business School study from 2011 discovered an additional 5% to 9% increase in revenue per each additional star on Yelp.

USGH currently has one-and-a-half stars.

Update 12:54 p.m. ET: Union Street Guest House posted a statement on its Facebook page. Make of it what you will:

The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.

Cheeky indeed! One review, though, posted in November 2013--well before PageSix's story broke--alleges that USGH's negative fine policy was actually enforced on his wedding party:



Also: The language on its website has been changed. Any mention of a $500 fine for bad reviews is gone.

[h/t: PageSix]

[Image: Flickr user Kevin Dooley]

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13 Comments

  • Yelp has deleted over 1000 negative reviews from Union Street Guest House's Yelp page for not following the user guidelines. Well, I think charging clients a fee for posting a negative review on yelp and extorting them to remove the reviews to get their money back is against the guidelines too. If you agree with me, sign this petition to get Yelp to remove Union Street Guest house from their site: https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/yelp-remove-the-union-street-guest-house-from-yelp-for-charging-their-clients-500-for-negative-reviews

  • I am reading the negative reviews on Trip Advisor that pre-date the Page 6 report -What is telling are the (hilarious) sanctimonious & sarcastic replies from the OWNER!!!!!

    Example:

    "We are so sorry these guests did not like our cancellation policy. if there's any way to make it up we would have but it wasn't to be...."

    --- If there was a way? There is! It's called a REFUND! LOL

    and

    "Wow. We are so sorry you thought we had "attitude". The only reason we don't always answer the phone is because we all like to use our devices to respond to our visitors more quickly and have a record of what everyone has said."

    WOW...just WOW! http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g47931-d490934-Reviews-Union_Street_Guest_House-Hudson_New_York.html#REVIEWS

  • Advertising stunt...but perhaps for Yelp! Pre-August 2014 there were only four posts about this hotel. Three out of the four were excellent. Seems everyone has a comment on the policy. Not from anyone who has actually stayed there but rather read this article. So what was said about Yelp weeding out the not-so-legit reviews?

  • Isn't it a little ridiculous to title an article "This Hotel..." and use a photo of a hotel that has absolutely nothing to do with the story?

    Also, what's a 'hipster hotel'?

  • This is great! The grown-up family and I are travelling to that area for an event late this year and this was one of the hotels in our list to check out.

    I hadn't checked on Yelp but I guess that all publicity isn't good publicity

  • jonassloan

    Whether the policy is real, fake or a publicity stunt it doesn't matter because everyone took the time to respond on Facebook and Yelp with negative comments even though most had never stayed there and were not actually reviewing the core business, but instead lashing out at a bad policy. There are bad policies everywhere in the service industry and most people ignore them (tips/gratuities/cleaning charges/cancellation charges). It is American entitlement that compels people to comment on everything because they have nothing better to do and are too lazy to do anything of real consequence that will cause real change in this world.

  • I have to comment. I am an American citizen living in Japan. My former boss is suing me for 2.2 million yen and also suing a former student who left a bad review online ON A REVIEW SITE. He has issued a warrant for her arrest and will sue her next week, for a lot of money. Amount unknown yet. If one cannot voice ones opinion anywhere for fear of being penalized, it's not a free world. Forget about whether you think these people are lazy. She ( former student) is a cancer doctor who just got fed up with the money she spent for a service that was totally wrong in it's advertising, so she is justified in sharing this with others. Where else can she make a single comment then be on her way? People with a real voice need to be able to speak it. Going to the boss of that company is useless as he won't even answer phones or emails.

  • "It is American entitlement that compels people to comment on everything because they have nothing better to do and are too lazy to do anything of real consequence that will cause real change in this world."

    lol you do realize that you are leaving a comment, right?

  • "Yelp, to its credit, has been proactive about aggressively screening fake reviews and trolls"

    That is bullsh*t. Yelp only SAYS that publicly but the reality is that Yelp still shakes down small businesses by forcing them to pay for advertising and if you don't, they allow their own employees to post bogus reviews and worse, they remove legitimate customer reviews and then claim that it's to keep the site's 'integrity'. Yelp is NOT a brand that can be trusted.